Marti Emerald (far right)
  • Marti Emerald (far right)
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City councilmember Marti Emerald joined representatives from the pro-labor Center on Policy Initiatives in Civic Center Plaza on Tuesday afternoon, June 10, as the group released a new policy brief examining the potential effect of a two-part proposal currently under council consideration on women in low-wage industries.

One of the items up for debate is a plan to phase in a citywide minimum wage of $13.09 by 2017 — this number was cited by an earlier Center study as the minimum needed by a local worker to live alone on a no-frills budget without relying on government assistance. The second component would require workers to provide employees access to five days of paid sick leave per year.

While the sick-leave benefit would be new to approximately 285,000 workers, and 220,000 would see an increased income from the minimum-wage hike, the plan's largest effects would be felt by women. While women account for only 44 percent of the city's total employment, 52 percent of them would get a pay boost if the plan is adopted.

"Women are overrepresented in service industries like food service, hotel accommodations, and retail," said Center director Clare Crawford. For example, "while 44 percent of all employees in San Diego are women, 57.5 percent in the hotel industry are women."

One third of all women employed full time within city limits would realize an income increase if the proposal is implemented (versus one in four), and nearly two thirds of part-time workers would receive a raise.

"Mothers often bear the greatest share of the burden of caring for sick family members," Emerald told media assembled in the plaza outside city hall. "The [proposal] is really a women's issue, as it's often women who take care of their children when they're sick, and even have to work sick themselves to support their families."

The proposal was reportedly forwarded to the city council today by the Economic Development and Intergovernmental Relations Committee, which includes five out of nine councilmembers: Sherri Lightner, Mark Kersey, Ed Harris, David Alvarez, and Marti Emerald. Mayor Faulconer is on the record as being opposed to the wage-increase proposal.

The council could consider placing it before voters in November or, as the council ordered city attorney Jan Goldsmith's office to explore last month, simply enacting the measure through a council vote.

Meanwhile, Goldsmith's office did indeed weigh in on the plan in a June 6 memo, though the result was a warning of potential lawsuits should the wage hike take effect. The main focus of the memo, penned by deputy city attorney George Halsey, is on enforcement issues that could arise when employers based outside San Diego send workers into the city on temporary assignments.

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